Friday, January 6, 2012

2011: The Year I Learned How To Run

I began running regularly for fitness about 11 years or so ago.  Prior to that, I had only run sporadically.  I started like everyone else, trying to run just one mile.....without dying.  I soon set a goal to run a local 5k charity race and started training using Hal Higdon's programs.  Over time, I was able to match my paces from six or seven years previous when I ran several 5k races.  I continued to train and continued to get even faster and run farther, working up to half marathons.  At some point, several years into the endeavor, I finally realized: I don't just run, I am a runner.

Also, several years into this running thing, I became associated with a few groups of runners: the Bridge the Gap to Health training program and the Heartland Road Runners and Walkers Club.  With these groups I learned to appreciate the camaraderie of group running, especially on those really long runs.  I also heard and overheard a lot about running form--some good and some bad.  Regardless, I changed my form: short, quick steps, landing on a flat foot, clawing forward with my toes.  Right or wrong, it worked; my performance improved further.

Then, 2011 arrived, during which all my professional credentials came up for renewal which meant I had to fulfill all of my continuing education requirements.  Since I would be paying, I was able to learn about anything I wanted.  So, I chose to attend Running Injuries and The Running Course - The Next Step.  On my own, I read about Chi RunningThe Pose Method, barefoot running, and natural running.  I'm also in the process of completing Jack Daniels' Running Formula.  No; not that Jack Daniel's.  And, a friend recommended this site.  So, I've read a lot about running this year and my approach has changed drastically since that first running course in the spring of 2011.

Great, right?  Well, I'm sure you're waiting for the "take-home point" so, let me summarize running form for you.  If you read all of these books and most of the other popular literature related to running, you'll find several commonalities.  It is not definitive, because it is just too damn difficult to do the research to prove it all--impractical if not impossible.  However, the available research can easily be interpreted to support what many writers are saying about running.

In no particular order....
1. Good, tall posture
2. Forward lean, from the ankles
3. Foot strike with the foot basically flat
4. Relatively high step rate (and therefore a relatively short stride length)

There it is.  So, I've tweaked my form a bit further.  I had already been working on #3 and #4 and I think I'm okay on #1.  When I practiced the forward!  I noticed a huge difference.  The Chi Runners talk about using the forward lean as the "gas pedal."  Good analogy--the more you lean, the faster you go.  I had been struggling a bit last fall with speed, not achieving the paces I expected.  The first speed workout I did utilizing the forward lean, I nailed all my paces.  It works great up hills too.  Very cool, and simple.

So, that's how I learned to run in 2011.

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